Get ’em while their young

I have been watching the Nova Scotia Liberals serve up their election promises over the past few days. I watch them particularly because the Tories are a known quantity and the NDP seem to be fairly clear in their position. Here’s what we know so far about the NS Liberal platform:

The Liberal plan offers no tuition freeze or rollback but instead offers a “completion bonus” after each year of study that can be put toward a student’s fees. That payment would be $600 in 2006-07, $700 in 2007-08, $800 in 2008-09 and $900 in 2009-10. It would go either directly to the student’s community college or university to cover any year-end debt or be given as a rebate to the student.

Nova Scotia’s Liberals are promising a tax credit for stay-at-home parents, and also committing to create 1,000 new day-care spaces over the next four years.

The Nova Scotia Liberals are planning to take more lower income Nova Scotians off the tax roles.

If you access the NS Libs web site, you see a full list of priorities. I can’t see anything about economic development. Anywhere.

If you search for the term ‘economic development’, you get individual MLA bios talking about economic development but no direct policy.

I am once again convinced that you have to get to these guys (the politicians) well before they ever get into politics. Because if they get in to politics without a good grasp on the concept of economic development, it seems that politically expedient actions take precedent over long term economic development.

The polls in Atlantic Canada consistently rank economic issues as between 4th and 7th on the list of priorities well behind, usually, health care, education, seniors and in some cases auto insurance, toll highways and other issues of the day.

So as a politician why bother? The Nova Scotia Liberals have obviously made a calculated decision that talking about economic development is a non-starter – so they don’t mention it – anywhere in their platform.

More often or not, the media will play on the public’s lack of knowledge about economic development to turn it against the politicians. Consider the recent closure of a call centre in Nova Scotia and of course there’s the ‘scandal’ of some Minister’s second cousin getting a government loan. Cripes, everybody in Nova Scotia is related to each other.

So, unless we can get these guys Mackenzie, Graham, Lord, Volpe, Dexter, MacDonald, well in advance we will lose them in the vacuum that is political life. They will spend their time in office putting out fires and following polls. Atlantic Canadian politicians – are in the worst period of depopulation in the region’s history and all we get is more talk about ‘investing in families’.

Well, newsflash gang, if you don’t start addressing the underlying economic challenges (and I don’t mean $100 million to save two rural paper mills), there won’t be any families left to ‘invest in’.

You want more university graduates to stay around the Maritimes? Bring in 10 more RIM projects. You want to keep those welders coming out of the NSCC that are sprinting to Alberta as fast as they can? Support the growth of the aerospace sector. You want more Phds to stay around the region? Attract and leverage private sector R&D into the region.

It might not be politically savvy. The media might eat you alive and pick apart every ‘bad’ deal while ignoring the 100 good deals.

But you will go down fighting for this region. Fighting to turn things around. Fighting for a future.

Because Bernard Lord’s future of a New Brunswick completely dependent on Equalization and Federal Transfers is not my vision for the future. A self sufficient New Brunswick contributing to Confederation is my vision. New Brunswick as a place people move to not from is my vision. A place where global investment takes a good hard look at New Brunswick rather than ignoring it.

And at the end of the day, who is the Maritime Premier that has the widest reputation and the best brand over the past 25 years?

I’ll give you a hint. He made economic development and that whole ‘pulling up by the bootstraps’ thing his central theme.

Maybe at the end of the day, the public is not as stupid as the media and pundits think. Maybe they would support a party that says ‘enough is enough’.

Maybe.

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0 Responses to Get ’em while their young

  1. Anonymous says:

    I agree 100%. BTW, did you read the TJ article today on equalization? They say the Shawn Graham is on the same wave lenght as Lord on equalization. As a voter I find this confusing since I no longer see a difference between both men. Graham seems to be flip flopping. what’s your perspective David?

  2. David Campbell says:

    At a political level, both Lord and Graham probably think they need to squeeze as much juice out of that lemon as they can. And I don’t really blame them. Dollars from the Feds are the same colour as dollars from locally generated taxes.

    However, there are three points I would make for consideration:

    1) Why does our Premier have to be the national spokesperson for more Equalization? I suspect that PEI, Quebec and Manitoba are also lobbying hard behind the scenes but why does our Premier have to be quoted in the national media every other day pushing for more Equalization? It makes NB look cheap and sullies our reputation in the rest of Canada, in my opinion. Our Premier should be putting forth a bold strategy to grow the economy and projecting this to the rest of Canada – which I imagine would welcome this approach.

    2) Some how we have to get the debate recentred on how we can get Atlantic Canada’s economies back on track. More Equalization will just push back the problem but it won’t get rid of it. For me it helps to project out 10 years – not making any assumptions about recession or other major issue – just if things continue to go in the same direction as they are going today. If you do this, you will see that the New Brunswick government in 10 years will have more than doubled its budget (from today) while at the same time, the population will have dropped around 5% more. Anyone with a pencil and grade two math can see that this trend is unsustainable. Eventually, government will be spending twice as much per person in New Brunswick as in the richer provinces. That is unsustainable. We have got to come back to this notion on moving NB in the right direction – reducing dependence on Equalization, increasing economic activity, increasing tax paying residents through in-migration, etc. Making Equalization our saviour will not work long term.

    3) As for Shawn Graham, I still have to believe that he is ‘keeping his powder dry’ when it comes to economic development. Not putting forward an ambitious economic development agenda for fear the Tories will steal it. I have to hope for this. Cripes, Francis McGuire is the campaign co-chair. Francis was the muscle man behind much of McKenna’s economic development effort. I am crossing my finger that Graham just doesn’t want to show his cards on this. Otherwise, we will get Bernard Lord II and slip further behind.

    And as I have said many times, I think our current Premier has convinced himself that things are booming in New Brunswick as a result of his policies. This is evident in his speeches and public statements. So, there is no chance of any change of direction on that front.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Any rebutal to McKenna’s comments that the NB economy is in great shape despite a declining population? Also, how do you feel about his statement that there has been a positive change of attitude in this region in relation to investment?

    Extracts from TJ article:

    “Despite the demographic challenge, Mr. McKenna said overall the province and the region were in “pretty good economic shape.”

    “There’s been a real evolution in attitude and in infrastructure and it’s a stronger economy.”

    http://www.canadaeast.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060524/TPNEWS14/605240320&SearchID=73245740361298

  4. Anonymous says:

    Or you could realize that government is just an organization with a monopoly on the use of force and completely out of its element when it comes to planning economic development. Get out of the way and let it happen.

  5. David Campbell says:

    a) McKenna is not as close to the numbers as he once was and b) he still seems to be in ‘campaigning’ mode. I still remember the fairly bitter speech he gave when he resigned in 1997. The bottom line is this: depopulation, non-petroleum exports down significantly; almost no increase in IT jobs since 2000; at or near the bottom on just about every economic and social measure in Canada and to top it off, we have a rapidly expanding provincial government primarily funded by taxpayers in other provinces.

    So for McKenna to say: “There’s been a real evolution in attitude and in infrastructure and it’s a stronger economy.” I don’t see what he is talking about. Net out-migration is up sharply since he was in office. 14 straight years where more people have moved out than moved in.

    Sure, we have been swept up in the growth of the national economy over the past 10 years or so. We have benefitted from that in terms of increased Equalization, increased EI payments, etc. We have also, I guess, benefitted from the Irving Refinery and its $4 billion in exports.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “almost no increase in IT jobs since 2000”

    Do you forget that the IT industry crashed in 2001 and is only rebounding now. How many startup have occurred in the province in the last couple of years because of initiatives like PropelSJ.

    You surely can’t blame the Lord or McKenna govts for the bubble bursting? Remember, even sillicon valley is only starting to rebound.

  7. scott says:

    Here’s a political slogan that would get their attention:

    Nova Scotia: A place where we’re making more “RIM JOBS” a political priority.

    A very Clintonesk ring to it.

  8. David Campbell says:

    Easy, hoss. I’m just saying if you look at the growth in IT jobs since 1999 – New Brunswick has actually decline whereas Canada, Nova Scotia, Ontario, etc. have actually added IT jobs. I love PropelSJ as a model, by the way. I think you will see a lot more community level efforts to fill the void.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been trying forevever to find numbers that show either a decline or augmentation of employment in IT and can’t find a bloody thing. Do you have any ressources you can point us to? After all numbers are non-partisan, n’est pas?

  10. David Campbell says:

    Moi, partisan? I guess so. Partisan on the side of growth. The best intercensual source is Statistics Canada’s labour market survey but their CANSIM tables aren’t granular enough.

    Try Table 282-0070 or 282-0072. You can get employment numbers for the NAICS industry grouping “Information, culture and recreation” which lumps IT companies in with culture and recreation firms. There are 12,500 people working in these areas in 2005 compared to 13,500 in 1999. Canada has added over 100,000 workers in this grouping. You will be happy to know that health care employment is up 21% and education employment is up 18% since 1999. If the private sector had performed as well as the public sector in job creation, we would have been among the leaders in job creation across Canada. But they didn’t and we weren’t.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I find it somewhat odd that the emphasis is ALWAYS on government. What about the private sector? They’re the ones with money. The province spends a fortune, as you say, on infrastructure, health, education, all the things so that private industry doesn’t have to. We build their roads, spruce up their ports.

    The lowest corporate tax, we’d build building for them if they wanted. We hand over entire industry sectors if thats what they want.

    Yet where are the jobs? Where are the DECENT jobs, why is it that government is the only one that offers decent working conditions.

    So here we sit, and blame government for ‘not doing enough’. No blame on ‘the market’, in fact, we’d kiss their sweet boots if they’d only give us a second glance.

    Even though they continually ignore the province, and while they’re here they ravage the landscape then blackmail our leaders for more money. Our tax dollars go to add technology so that they can continually lay off people.

    Perhaps its time to give a closer look at Cuba or Venezuela.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Francis McGuire is the campaign co-chair. Francis was the muscle man behind much of McKenna’s economic development effort.

    Francis has his strong points, but he’s got the attention span of a toddler on cocaine. He hasn’t been at ED&T for 10 years, I’m sure he’s overenthused about other stuff these days.